I went through an interesting exercise earlier this week, one that points to the key weakness in almost every new technology. That is that the engineers bringing the technology to market seem to forget that people are critical to the adoption process and people don’t like change much.
So most companies sell IT on a great new technology and then IT struggles to get anyone to use it. BMC decided to take a unique, different and, so far, vastly more successful path. They don’t just help deploy the product. They help sell the users on using it.
Earlier this week I went through a mini version of the Cloud Boot Camp, a 5-day course that BMC puts on for their customers. I role-played as the IT business liaison.
Strangely enough, I actually had a role like this years ago but I didn’t report to IT, I reported to the LOB (Line of Business). I can recall leaving meetings convinced that IT was staffed by idiots and I’m pretty sure they left feeling the same about our team.
The reason was that we didn’t talk the same language. Our concerns were focused on speed and executing a defined set of tasks; their concerns were on resources, technology limitations, and security. Both sides generally felt their time would be better spent doing something else. The end result was typically a late product that required a massive amount of additional work than otherwise would have been necessary had it been conceived better.
This dovetails with the Cloud world today, where lines of business blow off their own IT departments. They use their credit cards to buy services from companies like Amazon to complete projects more quickly, more cheaply, and generally in major violation of company security and operational policy. I was reminded of this a few months back when at a security conference I was told the following story.
How to Win an Award and Lose Your Job
Apparently at a pharmaceutical company, two engineers were frustrated with their response to a project for which they had requested IT assistance. It required a great deal of computing resources and IT told them it would likely take about $150K and 9 to 12 months to provision the resources for them. This consisted of specifying, buying, configuring, deploying, finding space, securing that space, etc.
The engineers took their credit cards and for about $3,500 got access to the resourced they needed in Eastern Europe and completed the project in 9 weeks. Their manager was so impressed he put them in for a company award for saving money and they won it by a landslide.
They were then terminated 24 hours later as a result of the related disclosure for violating security rules and exposing one of the company’s most valuable projects. There was no evidence of actual theft, they just couldn’t certify that this highly confidential data had been secured: the cloud service they subcontracted with had no way to determine where this critical data had gone or even if it could be deleted.
Realize that being fired for cause, with that cause appearing on their employment record – looking like they leaked highly confidential data – probably meant they would never get another job in the pharmaceutical industry, including janitor. For them this likely was a career ender because even higher education jobs often require a security clearance. They probably now can’t get one of those ever.
Cloud Boot Camp
What BMC does is bring the operating groups into a room and help moderate the discussion between the parties. They bring their experience from prior discussions so they can speak to the concerns that exist on both sides and drive towards a consensus solution.
This solution comes as close as possible to what the line of business wants, and has been getting from the service. In fact it often still includes parts of this service, but it also includes compliance, performance and back-up guarantees that LOBs often forget, and shared risk.
Shared risk is likely the most often forgotten benefit because it puts IT on your side. They’ll likely know the policies, at least with regard to digital information, and would be far safer as a defender than a prosecutor.
But what is particularly interesting is that this process puts the people first. Where normally you’d address the problems associated with a deployment related to actual use through user training (long after the solution was defined and the product selected), this process puts that component up front. It then gets designed into the solution.
This forces both sides to take the actual user into consideration. This appears to pay massive dividends, making the actual deployment and use of the solution more seamless. It also effectively pre-sells the users on this being something they want to do because they and/or their peers helped design it.
Wrapping Up: It’s the People, Stupid
Going back to my own early experience, which was to create one of the very first internal CRM products in IBM, an effort’s success or failure often has far more to do with how you deal with the people who use the offering than the offering itself.
I’ve seen ancient products do fine with people who used their full capabilities. And I’m sure we’ve all seen new products flame out due largely to user avoidance or misuse.
BMC’s Cloud Boot Camp approach to the complex cloud problem is now a best practice and likely should serve as a template for any project that is co-owned by the operating units. This is particularly true when those units have started to bypass IT.
In the end it not only could save the project it will protect IT jobs.